Shrugs, sighs, eye rolling, sneers, slumped shoulders, ignoring, mumbling are all gestures of non verbal communication.  But then, so are smiles, winks, hugs, spontaneous eye contact and a relaxed stance.  The problem with trying to read people, and especially your children, is that body language can have multiple meanings, depending on the culture, past experiences and willingness to share emotions and feelings.

One unconscious signal is open to interpretation.  However, if the gestures occur in clusters or with similar clues, then it is usually interpreted by others as an attitude.

We attract or repel people with non verbal signals. When I researched and wrote The Left Out Child many of the children who had the most difficulty finding and maintaining friendships had trouble reading other’s body language. By just working on their own body signals, they appeared much more open and approachable to close relationships.

Here is a small list of body movements.  Gestures that are “closed” mean that there is something standing in the way of honest sharing.  “Open” gestures usually indicate a willingness to build and strengthen a relationship and comfort with the others in the group or discussion.


Closed and Resistant

·          Arms folded to protect heart or stomach

·         Shoulders bent  forward

·         Knees pulled up in fetal position

·         Glancing at exit

·         Rigid or the opposite fidgeting

·         Locked ankles

·         Hand wringing

·         Rocking

·         Staring or eyes closed

·         Looking at floor

·         Head lowered


Open and Affirming

·         Palms up

·         Open hands

·         Spontaneous eye contact

·         Feet apart, shoulders back

·         Uncrossed legs

·         Appropriate touching/patting

·         Smile often/ laugh appropriately

·         Affirmative head nods

·         Body positioned towards other person


Respectful communication

The most effective communication is a mutually respectful and mindful listening attitude on the part of all participants.  By learning a few of the subconscious indicators along with the verbal information, we can form stronger relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

If you enjoyed this post, you will want to receive more information at: which has  a full listing of books, teleclasses and contact information for Judy H. Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, family relations coach. 

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Body Language Clues for Communication